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Shanghai’s Trade, China’s Growth: Continuity, Recovery, and Change since the Opium War

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  • Wolfgang Keller
  • Ben Li
  • Carol H. Shiue

Abstract

In this paper, we provide aggregate trends in China’s trade performance from the 1840s to the present. Based on historical benchmarks, we argue that China’s recent gains are not exclusively due to the reforms since 1978. Rather, foreign economic activity can be understood by developments that were set in motion in the 19th century. We turn our focus to Shanghai, currently the world’s largest port. Shanghai began direct trade relations with western nations starting in 1843. By 1853, Shanghai already accounted for more than half of China’s foreign trade. In tracking the levels and growth rates of the city’s net and gross imports and exports, foreign direct investment, and foreign residents over more than a century, we find that Shanghai’s level of bilateral trade today with the United States, the United Kingdom, or Japan, for example, are by no means high given Shanghai’s 19th century experience. This paper argues that a regional approach that embeds national trading destinations within an international trading system provides a meaningful approach to understanding the history of China’s trade.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17754.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Publication status: published as Wolfgang Keller & Ben Li & Carol H Shiue, 2013. "Shanghai's Trade, China's Growth: Continuity, Recovery, and Change since the Opium Wars," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 61(2), pages 336-378, June.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17754

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  1. Shang-Jin Wei & Jaebin Ahn & Amit K. Khandelwal, 2010. "The Role of Intermediaries in Facilitating Trade," Working Papers id:2557, eSocialSciences.
  2. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Scholarly Articles 3445092, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano & Diego Puga, 1997. "Agglomeration in a global economy: a survey," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20324, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  5. Zheng Song & Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2011. "Growing Like China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 196-233, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Rafael, Dobado-González & Alfredo, García-Hiernaux & David, Guerrero-Burbano, 2013. "West versus East: Early Globalization and the Great Divergence," MPRA Paper 48773, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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  1. Historical Economic Geography

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